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(SPOILERS) Discovery Episode #12 Primer

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“Vaulting Ambition,” episode #12 of Star Trek: Discovery, will run this weekend. Before we previewing the latest installment, let's look in the rearview mirror – see what we did there? – at what unfolded in "The Wolf Inside."...

Burnham, uncomfortable in her captain’s quarters aboard the Mirror Shenzhou, offered a long opening soliloquy. “I can’t rest here. Not really. Even the light is different. The cosmos has lost its brilliance. And everywhere I turn… there’s fear. Every moment is a test. Can you bury your heart? Can you hide your decency? Can you continue to be on them, even as, little by little, it kills the person you really are. I’ve continued to study their ways, read all that I can. It’s getting easier to pass… which is exactly what I feared the most.” Hmm, the episode’s title surely refers to Tyler, right? Or does it?

Tyler has no memory of killing Dr. Culber, but he’s been wrestling with his own demons. Still, here he is, kissing Burnham as if nothing has happened. She needs this. “Thank you,” she tells him. “You remind me of everything good, of what I want my world to look like.” And he tells her she’s his “tether.”

Meanwhile, the plotting continues apace. “An oppressive regime is, by nature, a fearful regime,” Saru notes to Burnham, adding that the data concerning the U.S.S. Defiant’s entry into this mirror realm is their last best hope at forming their own plan of escape. “I’ll find a way,” she insists. Burnham then tells a heartfelt, merciful lie: No, she says, she’s not encountered any Kelpiens on board the Mirror Shenzhou. He nods and, sounding genuine, implores her to “Stay safe, Michael… and be wary.”

tillytalkstosaru.jpgSaru has kept a secret from Burnham as well. Over Tilly’s objection, he’s not revealed to Burnham the news of Dr. Culber’s murder.

sarutilly.jpgThe conversation continues between Tilly and Saru, with Tilly arguing that Stamets did not kill Dr. Culber – or at least not the version of Stamets in the bio bed. 

Captain Maddox informs Burnham that Imperial intelligence has uncovered the location of the Fire Wolf. “The Klingon leader of the resistance?” Burnham asks. Maddox confirms it; his base is located on Harlak. He sends her the coordinates. “Terran General Order Four,” Burnham intones. “Any exotic species deemed a threat to Imperial Supremacy will be extinguished without prejudice.” Maddox practically drools with excitement. “Kill them all,” he raves. “The Emperor commands it!”

Much to the surprise of her crew, Burnham changes the game plan. “We can kill the Fire Wolf and his followers, lay waste to their operation from above, or we can get our hands dirty. Prep a landing party. I’ll infiltrate the rebel base myself… and return with the intel we need to bury the resistance once and for all.”

michael.jpgOver in the Mirror Shenzhou brig, Lorca is out of the agonizer, courtesy of Burnham. He wants her to wipe out the rebels, but she can’t send hundreds of rebels to their deaths to save herself. What about the crew? The Federation? “Our” universe being massacred by Klingons? “Sometimes,” he argues, “the end justifies terrible means.” She persists. This rebellion, with its unshakeable union of species – Klingons, Vulcans, Andorians, Tellarites – is “the closest to a Federation this universe may ever see.” And a Klingon leads the alliance. “That’s real hope,” she stresses, “for finding peace at home.” Lorca relents.

Back in engineering, Tilly puts together the pieces out loud as she converses with Saru. Stamets called her “Captain.” She didn’t think much of it at first, other than appreciating the “pretty sweet ring to it,” but in this mirror universe, she is a captain.” The discussion turns technical: “frontopolar cortex,” “micropatterns,” “mycelial travel,” “neuronal link,” building to an “internal transdimensional portal" to this universe. Or, theoretically,” Tilly adds, “any dimension accessible via the network.”

The task at hand: redirect the flow of blood, restore function to Stamets entire brain. And what organism can symbiotically contribute to the health of its hosts? Spores. “Stamets is inside the network,” Tilly explains. “In order to reclaim his lost neural function, we need to put the network inside him.”

Burnham and Tyler materialize on Harlak and are quickly surrounded by Klingons, Vulcans and other aliens, including a Tellarite. Burnham takes a gamble, laying down her weapons and announcing that she seeks an audience with the Fire Wolf. Shukar distrusts her, but she argues: “We come in peace. Against the orders of our Emperor.  We’ve come to deliver a message… a warning.”

michaelmeeting.jpgThe group heads to a tent city, where Burnham and Tyler are shocked to meet the Fire Wolf… Voq, or more accurately, Mirror Voq, who speaks English. His first words: “We finally meet.” He’s surprised she’s alive. She says she’s betraying her kind, risking her life to save… him, but he’s having none of it, grabbing his bat’leth. Burnham continues speaking, nearly convincing him of her sincerity. Still not quite trusting her, he summons “the Prophet.”

mirrorsarek.jpgEnter… Sarek, or Mirror Sarek, replete with goatee. “Master Sarek sees all,” Mirror Voq notes. “His wisdom pierces minds. If you truly come in peace, he will find it in your heart.” Mirror Sarek begins a mind meld, and then sees all Burnham has experienced… in her life, with him, in another universe. “She means us no harm,” he declares.

Voq211.jpgThe misdeeds of Humans in the Mirror Universe have made reluctant allies of the Klingons, Tellarites, Andorians and Vulcans. It’s the answer to Burnham’s question, “How have you come to compromise and embrace each other?” But the fight is just getting started, for, as Mirror Voq notes, “The Humans seek Klingon extinction,” and as, Burnham replies, “The Terrans will not stop until all of his enemies are destroyed.”

But the moment of rapprochement is nearly undone when Tyler is triggered. He hears T’Kuvma: “Remain Klingon.” And he attacks Mirror Voq… like a Klingon would. Mirror Voq takes him down and Shukar trains a phaser on Burnham. “You dishonor yourselves,” Mirror Voq seethes, “even in death.” Mirror Sarek saves the day: “I do not claim to understand the logic behind his motives,” the Klingon says of Tyler, “but I know hers are pure.”

An understanding reached, Shukar hands Burnham a data chip that provides the locations of each rebel listening station in the quadrant. Burnham and Tyler beam back to the Mirror Shenzhou, where an angry and confused Burnham confronts Tyler. “I have had your back,” she says. “I have saved your life. I have… loved you,” but despite all that he’s jeopardized everything, and everyone. He tries to explain. There’s a connection with L’Rell; when she speaks, he’s forced to listen. “And her words,” he explains, “they tell me who I am.”

Flashes of torture hit hard at Tyler. “I don’t think I am Ash Tyler, Starfleet lieutenant,” he tells Burnham. “Not really. Not anymore.” He’s transforming, before her eyes and ears. “You were willing to betray your captain to protect your people,” he says. “I sacrificed my body and mind to protect mine.” Inside, he remains… Klingon. “I am Voq,” he reveals. “Son of none. The Torchbearer.” Tyler/Voq admits he killed Dr. Culber, “a necessary casualty. It dawns on Burnham that Tyler/Voq speaks the truth. Tyler/Voq then attacks Burnham, who is saved at the last moment by Slave Saru.

Over on the Discovery, the spores seem to be working. “The veins and muscles of the universe…” Tilly observes. “Fungi are the only organism with the biological aptitude to link death with life.” But the joy of apparently saving a scientist with his own specimens is short-lived. Stamets crashes and appears to die, leaving Tilly heartbroken.

Detmer remarks that Tyler’s swift execution will send a valuable message to the Mirror Shenzhou crew and, sensing Burnham’s hesitation, points out that “Terran Law is binding.” Burnham concurs.

Tilly is still mourning Stamets. “I’m so sorry,” she cries. “I hope that where you are, he’s with you.” But then, a monitor registers a pulse on Stamets, and his brain is more active than ever. Cue a trippy visit to the Spore Forest. Stamets hears a most-familiar voice… his own. “Hello, Paul,” the off-screen voice intones. “Ready to get to work?” A beat. Mirror Stamets greets our Stamets and says, “I so hoped that you would find your way.”

In the transporter room, Burnham prepares to execute Tyler/Voq. She punches him, declares “This one dies by my own hand,” and beams him to his death… or does she? Turning to Mirror Detmer, she barks, “Have Lorca delivered to my ready room. I’d like to soothe the blow of Mr. Tyler’s betrayal with a… private interrogation.”

Tyler/Voq floats in space, edging closer to death with each passing second. Then he dematerializes, only to materialize on the Discovery, where Saru and several security officers take him into custody. “She should have left me to die…” he spits, “… with honor.” Saru suggests that despite being stranded in a cruel, anarchic world, Federation Law still applies. Plus, he adds, “If she had, Burnham’s mission aboard the Shenzhou would remain incomplete.” Just then, he grabs hold of the data chip that Burnham planted on Tyler when she punched him. “Our key to finding a way home,” says Saru, who’s not gloating, but rather distressed about losing another friend.

Burnham and Lorca speak in the brig. She wants to leave this section of space, but he stresses that the mission remains to be completed. He’s right, but she doesn’t know how survive this place alone. “You are not alone, Michael,” Lorca promises. “We will survive this place, together.”

Mirror Detmer interrupts the conversation to announce that another vessel is targeting Harlak, leaving Burnham stunned, as the rebels haven’t completed their evacuation. On the Mirror Shenzhou bridge, she watches as Harlak itself, not just the rebel base, is destroyed. “Incoming transmission,” Mirror Januzzi states. “It’s the Emperor.” And the Emperor is Mirror Philippa Georgiou.

Ep12-31.jpgAs warm, open, forgiving and hopeful as Captain Georgiou once was, her Mirror counterpart is the opposite in every way: ice-cold, close-minded, cruel and miserable. “Captain Michael Burnham… you’ve been away too long,” she hisses, portending awful things to come. “Don’t you bow before your Emperor?”

And, perhaps even more ominously, Lorca, his face bowed down, betrays a glimmer of a smile.

Next on Discovery...

Ep12-51.jpgIn "Vaulting Ambition,” Burnham heads to the I.S.S. Charon with a special "gift" for the Emperor. With the help of an unexpected source, Stamets gains clarity while trapped inside the mycelial network. And Saru asks for L’Rell’s help.

Worth Noting

Ep12-41.jpgThe teaser for "Vaulting Ambition” shows Emperor Georgiou very publicly beating Captain Lorca. What, then, was that smile at the end of “The Wolf Inside”? Remember, we, the audience saw it, but Burnham did not.

After Trek

When Star Trek: Discovery ends, After Trek begins. Stream it Sundays at 9:30pm ET/6:30pm PT. Joining host Matt Mira will be:


Star Trek: Discovery airs Sunday nights on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Space Channel in Canada. The series airs on Mondays on Netflix in the rest of the world.

Star Trek Discovery CBS All Access

Star Trek Discovery Space Channel CraveTV

Star Trek Discovery Netflix



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